Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ally Condie

rating: 7.5 out of 10 "books"

Dystopian fiction seems to be all the rage these days and while I feel like I need to switch gears over here and start reading (and reviewing) other types of fiction, I can’t seem to tear myself away. I’m one of those readers who will read things based on “buzz.” The more a magazine, journal, whathaveyou talks about a particular book of interest, the more I want to read it (see my upcoming review of the controversial “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”) So when I kept seeing Matched by Ally Condie pop up everywhere, I knew I had to take a peek.

In the perfect world of the Society, Cassia is one of the many perfect citizens; she follows the rules, doesn’t question anything or anyone, and like everyone else: believes she is happy. And why shouldn’t she be? The Society provides for everyone. There is no war, no hunger, no suffering or disease. Cassia knows exactly when she will die because Society plans it out for every citizen to be at 80 years old. Everything is so perfectly planned that the Society even figures out who a citizen’s perfect match is, based on the collection and analysis of tons of data. So when Cassia is matched with her best friend Xander, it’s a wonderful surprise for both parties. Most matches don’t even know each other, let alone live close enough to one another, so it comes as a very strange occurrence for the whole town.

The problem arises when Cassia goes to look over Xander’s bio data one day, even though she already knows everything about him. Along with Xander’s photo in her match material, a flash of someone else appears – someone Cassia also knows. This in turn sets off a chain of events that completely turns what Cassia thought she knew about life in the Society upside down. On top of questioning her match with Xander, Cassia now worries about the perfect planning set in motion by the Society. As she begins to discover some ugly truths about her “perfect” world, Cassia starts down a path she can never come back from.

This story and I got off to a slow start, but I can’t deny that it got pretty page turn-y at the end. I can definitely see how people have complained that this is yet another piece of Twilight-esque teen dribble, with a thoughtless, selfish female character torn between two gorgeous teenage boys. I can definitely agree that a lot of what Cassia does in the story is very stupid; obsessing over a guy simply because he accidentally appeared on her screen and is mysterious, and so on. But when you think about it, isn’t this much like what today’s teenage girls do anyways? Obsess over the tiniest of details about the opposite sex? So honestly, I can see why the author made this such a huge deal for Cassia. But I also read some pretty redeeming story points that made up for the cheesiness; the fact that each citizen carries 3 separate tablets for different situations, the idea of “artifacts” that the townspeople have from waaaay back when (like 2011) which most have no idea what these artifacts are or what they do, and the concept of the matching ceremonies themselves. I’m definitely the type of reader who doesn’t need some sort of big intellectual point at the end of my story. I’m not exactly the biggest fluff reader either. But hey, sometimes fluff is not a bad thing.

Oh, on another note readers -- I've also heard that they're thinking of turning "Matched" into a movie :)

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